Did Your Tenant Let the Pipes Freeze?

Years ago, I leased a small second-floor apartment over a detached garage. They don’t let you do that in my town anymore. I think it has to do with updated building codes and safety rules. Anyway, like most college students, I abandoned my apartment over the holidays for a trip home. I saw what I thought was a good opportunity to save on my utility bills, and turned the heat way down.

Not surprisingly, when I returned, a fountain had formed in one of the garage bays. Freezing temperatures had burst a pipe, sending water gushing across the concrete floor. The event did not endear me to my landlord and, needless to say, I didn’t get my deposit back.

What is an Addendum and How Is It Used?

The Latin word “addendum” appeared more than 230 years ago to define “something added.” Here we are in the early 21st century, and no one on Earth speaks Latin as his or her native language.

Yet, that word, addendum, is still in heavy use to describe something added to a book, to a magazine, to a yearbook, and, yes, to a lease agreement.

Even if you are in that small minority of folks who still remember a few words from long-ago Latin lessons, the use of lease addenda (that’s plural for addendum) may still stump you. So here’s the 411 on that important form.

Rental Property Landscaping Dos and Don’ts

Landlords are some of the busiest people we know. Most have full-time jobs, and many manage their property portfolios with little or no professional help. They're on call for emergency repairs and tenant crises, and they must carve out time to show their rentals, and to meet incoming and outgoing tenants for the before and after walk-through tours.

The absolute last thing the average landlord wants to spend time on is grounds maintenance.

That isn't to say that no landlord cuts the grass at his or her rentals; in fact, many do. However, minimizing labor is essential in order to have time for other important chores, and to ensure that costs (including the landlord's labor or the fee for lawn care services) don't exceed profits.

How Much Rent Should You Charge?

Since rental income is the chief reason people consider buying investment properties, choosing the right rent amount requires a great deal of thought. But how do landlords decide what to charge?

Formerly, they spent weeks scanning newspaper ads for comparable rental units, and seeking advice from market experts. Now, though, anyone with internet access and a calculator can figure it out for themselves.

The two most important considerations in setting an appropriate rent amount are:

• Covering the cost* of owning the property

• Drawing a good pool of tenants

How Do You Know It’s Time to Renovate – And Will Improvements Allow You to Raise the Rent?

Landlords typically clean carpets, repaint and make minor repairs when a tenant moves out and before a new tenant moves in. At some point, however, addressing normal wear and tear just isn't enough to give a rental the facelift it needs. In that case, it may be time to consider a serious renovation.

How much work should a landlord perform to update a rental property? And, will the work merely keep a unit competitive, or do upgrades merit a rent increase?

The project scope, feasibility, timetable and return on upgrade investment each require careful consideration before taking a plunge into an overhaul of an investment property.

Stage Your Rental So the Best Tenants Find You

It's so easy for landlords to get the word out when they have a unit for rent. They simply post a description and photos online – usually for free – and get a world of tenants at their fingertips.

Why, then, are online rental ads often so unappealing?

Go ahead; choose any neighborhood, enter a few parameters and start going through the photos that pop up.

Harrisburg, Pa. apartment complex: Two of the three shots are of the outside of the complex and the remaining picture is of a corner of a kitchen.

What documents do I need to get started as a landlord?

When you’re thinking about entering the market as a landlord, the considerations are many. Before you get caught up in the minutiae of advertising the property, making cosmetic upgrades, or screening for the perfect tenant, be sure to consider the paperwork that may need to be completed before you may legally rent your unit. The requirements to move a tenant into a property vary greatly by municipality. A landlord should be prepared to encounter a process of legal filings, fees, and inspections, and should anticipate potential roadblocks. While the local requirements will dictate what must be done, a general understanding of the terminology and other considerations may make it easier to navigate this process.